Our approach to covering the County Championship has always been to strip away all of the fat and flesh and a fair proportion of the bones to leave something manageable. What you do with what’s left is up for debate. Give it to the dog, maybe.
Our official editorial stance is that only the first division matters, but we’re refining that further this year. We’re going to try and focus on the top of the table. The idea is that those of you who don’t follow county cricket too closely might be able to get just a few details about the title race without wasting time reading match reports which are about irrelevant teams or which provide needless detail about how a batsman was dismissed and in what over.
First, the table. Middlesex and Sussex are top, while Durham also won. Let’s try and tell their stories.
1st – Middlesex
Middlesex beat Nottinghamshire, who are generally one of the stronger counties. The match was set up by 6-63 from Toby Roland-Jones and at the age of 25 and with a first-class average of 20.57, we’re pretty sure we missed a trick in not selecting him as one of our players to watch this season. Then again, trick-missing is one of our specialties, along with making scrambled eggs and being unable to work for more than about eight minutes at a time.
Roland-Jones’ efforts were supported by 97 not out from wicketkeeper John Simpson. We checked his Cricinfo profile and he is not the BBC journalist. The match was then decided when Neil Dexter dismissed Nottinghamshire’s entire middle-order in their second innings, taking 5-27. Not-very-interestingly, Neil Dexter isn’t quite as old as we thought he was.
1st – Sussex
Yorkshire folded in their first innings. That’s pretty much the story here. Chris Jordan, once of Surrey, took 6-48, but we get the impression that if he hadn’t taken the wickets cheaply, someone else would have done. Yorkshire were dismissed for 96, Sussex made an unspectacular 356 and then secured an innings win with Yorkshire a dozen runs away from getting to bowl a second time.
3rd – Durham
It is early season and Graham Onions is playing. Shorn of their foulweather specialist, Nick Compton – who is resting after England duty – Somerset couldn’t cope. Chris Rushworth actually took one wicket more than Onions, but we’d be surprised if that happened too often, even if Rushworth does have a surprisingly good record.
It was a low-scoring match and Ben Stokes’ 49 was the best effort until Craig Kieswetter’s 72 in the fourth innings. Kieswetter batted at three which is perhaps part of the masterplan to teach him how to score singles.
The next chapter
We’re hoping that over the weeks, a story will take shape. The focus should become more consistent as the table becomes established and hopefully we’ll get to know the characters who are having the biggest influence on things.
Set against that is the fact that we’re quite lazy and might get distracted or go on holiday. We’ll do our best to stay on top of things, but faint, not-particularly-heartfelt apologies if we do end up missing a week.